It all started as a small child poking elbows in my dad's back. He would say “Hey Kid, come push right here.” One day, during our usual routine of me contorting my small body to get pressure beyond my stature, I pressed a spot that twitched and then went away! It was like magic! “Do it again!” He said. I was eight and I was hooked!
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t massage those around me. All my friends and family members had to do to get a massage was to stand within arm’s reach of me. I am not sure how or why, but I always seemed to gravitate to “right where it hurt.” The Oohh’s & Aahh’s I got in return were very empowering as was the innate understanding that healthy touch was safe and was meant to feel good.
As a young woman, I grew to learn that boundaries were important. My only experiences with touch had been positive, so I didn’t understand that not everyone shared that experience. Just as I remember that first time I released a trigger point in my father’s back, I can remember the first time someone I was massaging had an emotional release. I was 15. A group of friends and I were enjoying a hot summer day jumping into the rock query close to our hometown of Fayetteville, Georgia. The jump off the cliff into the cool water below was a doosie and once in, you had to scale the rock wall to get back up to the top of the query.
One of the girls with us hurt her shoulder climbing back up and I offered to massage it to see if I could help. Her reluctance was palpable, but she conceded when my best girlfriend told her that I massaged my dad all the time and that I had “good hands”. Her shoulders were like bricks! I couldn’t believe someone my age was so muscular and strong (I didn’t yet know what stress was). As I gently moved her shoulder and lifted the tissue, I felt a “pop.” It was really strange because it wasn’t really in the muscle; it sort of vibrated through the whole right side of her body. She took a deep breath and when she let it out she just started sobbing. I am talking deep, almost scary, body shaking sobs. I had no idea what to do or what to say, so I didn’t do or say anything. I didn’t move at all. I just keep my hands on the same spot and silently freaked out. All our friends were down in the query. It was just the two of us sitting in the sun for what felt like an eternity. At some point, her sobs subsided, she turned to me, said “thank you”, gave me a really long tight hug and jumped in the query. We never spoke about it, but I knew those tears weren’t from a hurt shoulder and I have never forgotten the way her face changed in that moment. She looked like a different person and I knew that whatever had happened, even though I didn’t understand it, was a good thing.
After high school I went to Valdosta State University for college. I was lucky because both my brother, Bill, and my sister, Barb, had gone to VSU. That first quarter I actually lived with my sister before she went off to Miami to start medical school. Like most college students I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Eventually I had to pick a major, I chose Psychology in no small part because of my experience on the lip of that query 3 years earlier.
After college I moved with Barb to Keego Harbor, Michigan. She was completing her residency and I was unsuccessfully trying to find myself while selling cars at the local dealership and waiting tables. One day in the midst of hating my job I decided I needed a change. I looked in the phonebook, picked up the landline telephone and called the only massage school listed. Two weeks later I started my training at Irene's Myomassology Institute in Southfield. At the time I was just looking for direction, now I understand how truly blessed I was to attend Irene’s.
Irene Gauthier was an inspiration and guiding light to all that knew her, me included. Then 77 years young, Irene taught at the school and maintained a full time therapeutic practice in Myomassology, a field she created. This exceptional women not only provided me with amazing core curriculum that set a foundation for everything I have ever accomplished in my massage career, but she opened my eyes to the invisible world that resonates all around us - an awakening that changed the way I “see” the world forever.
I was enjoying being the client during class one evening except we were practicing working on the back and my hip was killing me. Suddenly, I hear Irene say “She can’t relax. You have to work that right hip or you are never going to get anywhere with that.” I lifted my head up to see Irene staring straight at my partner from 5 tables away. “How can you see that from over there?” I asked, truly perplexed. She smiled and shook her head as she emphatically responded. “I can’t see it! My Dear, I can feel it!” In that moment my thirst for knowledge and my passion for helping those in pain heal themselves ignited.
I have come to understand that pain is experienced and processed on many levels - physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I knew I wanted to help clients release pain (regardless of source) so they could become healthier and happier by being more centered, focused, aware and in control of their own pain cycles. I needed to find a way to help my clients feel empowered to heal themselves. As a result, I sought educational tracks that would help me refine my therapeutic skills in each of these areas so that I could better serve those that choose to work with me.
After Irene’s I went on to receive my hypnotherapy certification from SWIHA, Therapeutic Massage Teacher Training certification from Arizona School of Integrated Studies, corrective exercise training from Symmetry for Health and a Master’s degree in Counseling from Northern Arizona University. Although I do not practice counseling and am not a licensed counselor, I do utilize the understanding I gained at NAU in the therapies I offer in my practice, A Comfortable Place Integrative Healing.
I started teaching massage in 1998 at the Phoenix Therapeutic Massage College in Flagstaff, AZ. After moving to San Diego, CA in 2003 I taught at Maric College and began teaching my Mind-Body Integration course for Cross-Country Education and started consulting with BIOTONE Professional Massage Products on a number of educational projects.
Around 2007 I started to notice that class sizes were decreasing as the economy took a turn. I had taken an online course with the fabulous Whitney Lowe and we inspired to take the somewhat heady cognitive knowledge components out of my coursework and present them online. My thought was that by doing so I could offer live seminars that were shorter, less expensive and more advanced. The idea for Massage Educator was born.
I called my brother, Bill, my official unpaid IT guy, to ask him if he would help me build a web site offering dynamic and highly interactive online classes to massage therapists. Over the next six months he and I worked together to figure out the intricacies of such a venture.
Fully invested, I closed my practice and flew home to work with Bill on this new company we were now partners in creating. Three months later, I returned to San Diego focused on course creation and design. Nine days after my return (June 17th, 2009), before he could build a single page of our new site, Bill died from a bacterial infection. My brother, best friend, sounding board, business partner and web guru was gone from this world. From that moment on he has lived in my heart, with me in all things, acting as my inspiration from the spirit world.
I continue to develop my signature course work including: Mind-Body Integration, Dynamic Wraps, Opening the Breath, Pelvic Postures and The 15 Minute Shoulder Blast. Armed with my NCBTMB Approved Providership I have had the pleasure of teaching at numerous local, state and national conventions including the World Massage Conference, One Concept Conference (San Diego, Atlanta and Canada). I continue to enjoy a rewarding relationship with BIOTONE Professional Massage Products that allows me to share my knowledge via the BIOTONE blog, educational videos and our FREE quarterly SPA Open house at BIOTONE’s San Diego headquarters.
My experience as a massage educator (and therapist) has been an adventure full of wonder, excitement, tears, frustration, love, devotion, spirit, and determination - my own and those that support me – and it is still a work in progress! I find this industry and the people who are attracted to it irresistible. I am blessed beyond words that my “job” is my passion and that I get to perpetually learn, teach and share with some of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Massage isn’t my job, it is who I am.